“Just how effective would Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) be if a Firefighter were to fall through the ice while in full gear?”
“Once in the water, how long would it take the rather heavy turnout gear Firefighters wear during fire fighting operations, to become saturated with water to the point of causing the fire fighter to begin sinking below the surface of the water?”
Those were the two questions members of the Merrill Fire Department sought to answer on Tuesday afternoon, during an exercise at Riverside Athletic Club.
As Battalion Chief Mike Drury explained, the intent of the exercise was not only to test the timing for water saturation of the department’s turnout gear, but to also put the department’s various PFD models to the test.
“We always wondered for many many years, what would happen if a Firefighter fell through the ice,” Drury said.
“Would the turnout gear soak up water and not be floatable or would they actually float?”
As Drury further explained, per department policy; each Firefighter is required to wear a PFD when conducting operations on ice, in addition to their to their standard gear and equipment.
“We have 4 different types which we are testing in the pool today to see which works better for buoyancy,” Drury added.
“We are also timing to see the saturation point of our turnout gear, to see how long it takes for them to become saturated with water before they sink.”
Check out the video below for the live exercise, a rather surprise twist and the final results of Tuesday’s testing.